About House Church

What are House Churches?

What sort of churches meet in homes deliberately? Home based churches that are a bit (or a long way) outside the ‘box’ … hence the name ‘Edge‘. Actually, they’re a bunch of people who (hopefully) think and live outside the box – being the church in their community.

What are they called in New Zealand – house churches, home churches, micro churches, organic churches, simple churches, emerging churches, liquid churches, street churches, XYZ churches, edge churches…whatever label you like.

What are they like? There’s a wide variety but they often don’t have a church building (they usually meet in a house), professional clergy or paid staff.

Are we a formal network? No, definitely not, but we want to encourage the exploration and development of alternative ways to ‘be church’ (not ‘do church’) hence you’ll find links here to all sorts of groups / churches / networks / websites etc. We use the term ‘network’ in a very loose, non-structured, informal way (if you have any ideas for better words to use, let us know)

Apostolic churches? Yes, hopefully cutting edge, sent out, breaking new ground – real apostolic stuff (with a little ‘a’).

Missional communities? Yes, hopefully – if they aren’t, we are probably wasting our time…

Do we endorse all the house churches we link to? No and yes. We can’t endorse something we don’t know well, but we haven’t heard anything bad about them, so as far as we know they’re okay.

Are house churches safe? Hopefully, but the only way to be sure with any church is to check them out, use your wisdom, talk to other people and compare them with what you learn from the Bible. There is a wide variety of house churches out there – you might like some and dislike others.

How ‘emerged’ are we? Not very far at all – but we’re having fun on the journey!

House Church – a good definition from Wikipedia

House church is an informal term for a group of Christians gathering regularly or spontaneously in a home instead of a building dedicated to the purpose. Another term with the same meaning is “home church”.

Some groups meet like this because they lack a conventional church building; but these are not normally regarded as house churches. Others meet in homes because they prefer to meet informally, or because they believe meeting in a home is the true pattern set in the first century and intended by Christ. Some, perhaps, meet in homes for several of these reasons.

House churches should not be confused with cell churches. A house church is not normally part of a larger, overseeing organization, although the group may associate informally with other Christians and house churches in networks reflecting equality rather than hierarchy. Those who meet in house churches regard themselves as belonging to the worldwide Church, but are self-governing and independent, generally without formal relationships with established “institutional” churches.

Some house churches have a conventional leadership structure, others have none. A commonly held belief in the modern day house church “movement” is that the Protestant Reformation did not go far enough to demonstrate a New Testament belief in the “priesthood of all believers” and that Jesus Christ alone is the Head of the Church which is the body of Christ. This movement has been gaining momentum worldwide in both industrialized countries such as Australia, Germany, the UK and the USA, and in third world countries.

The absence of hierarchical leadership structures in many house churches, while often viewed by the Protestant church at large as a sign of anarchy or rebelliousness to authority, is actually viewed by many in the house church movement to be the most viable way to come under true spiritual authority of love, relationships, and the visible dominion of Jesus Christ as Head of His own bride. Some within the house church “movement” therefore consider the term house church to be a misnomer, because the main issue within people who practice their faith in this manner is not the house but more the type of meeting that takes place; other titles which are sometimes used to describe this movement more functionally are “simple church”, “relational church”, “primitive church”, “bodylife”, “organic church” and similar terms.

The house church movement also owes much of its networking and exchange of information to the use of the internet; HC is generally used as an abbreviation for ‘House Church’ and IC is used to designate “Institutional Church” which is the generalized term for more traditional church structures, including a church building and/or sermon-centered church services led by a pastor or minister.

As a rule, house church gatherings are free, informal, and sometimes include a shared meal. Participants hope that everyone present will feel free to contribute to the gathering as and when they sense the leading of the Holy Spirit to do so. Leadership structures range from no official leaders, to a plurality of appointed elders; however, there is a deliberate attempt within most house churches to minimize the leadership of any one person, and so having one pastor or leading elder is generally frowned upon, in favor of a more plural responsibility of leadership diffused over several people or the members as a whole.

So What Do We Believe In?

  • Mission – we want to be effective in seeing people come into relationship with Jesus and become disciples
  • Discipleship – growth only comes as people enter God’s kingdom and become disciples of Jesus
  • Planting ‘churches’ that are relevant & ‘effective’
  • The Bible is accurate and authoritative in our lives and churches
  • Rethinking what it means to ‘be the church’
  • Reviewing our lives … to see how much we are influenced by God, and how much is extra stuff added through christian/church culture, western culture, societal expectations and so on
  • Healthy dialogue – as we try to figure out how to follow Jesus
  • Remember the poor (Gal 2:10)

Top Ten Reasons for Planting House Churches

The following is taken from “The Global House Church Movement” by Rad Zdero

  1. Biblical – This was the normative New Testament pattern established by Jesus and the apostles and perpetuated by the early church of the first three centuries and in subsequent renewal, reform and revival movements throughout history. (Acts 2:46, 5:42, 20:20)
  2. Exponential – To reach a growing world, we need to multiply, not just add. Current house church movements worldwide are outstripping more traditional church planting and church growth efforts.
  3. Effective – The most effective method of evangelism is not growing existing churches, but planting new ones. House churches are the most easily reproducible form of church, and hence, are the most obvious choice for church planting.
  4. Natural – House churches become part of the local community and easily tap into relationship connections, thereby more readily taking on an indigenous flavour.
  5. People-Focused – They focus on relationships and the development of people spiritually, not on executing programs or projects.
  6. Efficient – They are more mobile, flexible, and adaptable than conventional churches, especially in areas characterized by persecution and poverty.
  7. Equal Opportunity – Because of their small, intimate and participatory nature, all believers have the opportunity to exercise their spiritual gifts during church meetings, and not just professional clergy or key leaders.
  8. Unbounded – They are not limited by church buildings. Whatever use buildings may or may not have, history shows that they are not necessary for rapid church planting movements to start; in fact, they may be a hindrance. Although church buildings are not evil by any means, nor are homes in any way magical, the practical release of time, energy and money away from building maintenance, and into evangelism and discipleship, should cause us to rethink current practices.
  9. Inexpensive – They are less expensive than traditional church, because no expensive buildings, programs, or professional clergy are required.
  10. Immediate – It can start now, right in your living room. There is no need to wait for a gym to be rented or for a building program to be completed to begin a new church or for a full-time pastor to be hired.

Who Are We?

This house church site has been put together by David and Margaret Allis (and their 6 wonderful kids). We are establishing a missional church in Devonport Auckland that meets in our home (unless you live nearby and have better coffee). See the Devonport page for more info.

We hope this site will serve the emerging missional church (house, home, micro, organic, simple, liquid, street, XYZ, edge) in New Zealand. There are many great churches in Devonport – we are proud to be one of them.

Recent Posts

What Are the Hell Options?

Originally posted 12/3/09

by David Allis

In a previous article, I discussed some of the problems with hell – that is, some problems with the traditional Christian view of hell being a place of permanent conscious punishment for those who haven’t been saved while alive on earth. This traditional view typically relies on four theses:
Punishment – the purpose of hell is to punish those whose earthly lives warrant it
No Escape – those people consigned to hell cannot escape from it
Anti-Universalism – not all people will be saved – some (or many) people will be consigned to hell
Eternal Existence – hell is a place of unending conscious existence

The ‘problem’ of hell is compounded by scriptural ambiguity regarding the afterlife. The case for the traditional view of hell is not so clear, and it is difficult to ascertain how much this traditional view has been influenced by sources other than the scriptures – sources such as historical individuals like Tertullian (200AD) & Dante (a 13th Century Italian poet), pagan traditions, teutonic mythology and other factors. In addition, supporters of divergent & contradictory views of hell all find scriptural support for their alternative beliefs.

In considering a christian concept of hell, there are a limited number of options available, with clear choices in some areas. There are also some other areas that are not crucial, but are of interest. This is best expressed in logical form.

1. Does Hell Physically Exist?
a) YES – consider Q2 & Q3
b) NO – Hell is metaphorical

2. Is Hell Permanent? ie will individuals remain in hell for all eternity?
a) YES – this is part of the traditional view of hell
b) NO – there will come a time when there is no longer anyone alive in hell. With this view, there are a few alternatives on how people will end their time in hell. (Note – there is some overlap between these alternatives)
i. Annihilation – people in hell will eventually die (be annihilated), either at different times or all at the same time. Once everyone has died, there would be no need for hell to exist.
ii. Conditional Immortality – people only remain alive because of God’s active involvement in their lives. At some stage, God will stop keeping people in hell alive and then they will cease to exist.
iii. Escape – see below
iv. Gradual Death – people in hell have, in some way, ongoing opportunities to ‘repent’ and be saved (go to heaven). Whenever people choose not to repent (ie say ‘no’ to God), part of them dies. Eventually, if they resist God’s offer (of salvation) for long enough, they will die completely (cease to exist). Hence, eventually everyone in hell will have either moved to heaven, or ceased to exist.

3. Is it Possible to Escape from Hell? ie can individuals in hell get ‘saved’ in some way and move to heaven?
a) NO – this is part of the traditional view of hell – there is no possible escape from hell (there is no ‘second chance’ after death)
b) YES – it is possible for individuals to escape, or be ‘saved’ from hell and go to heaven. There might be one ‘second chance’, or multiple ‘second chances’ for individuals, which they can use to escape from hell.

The traditional view of hell would answer ‘a’ to the 3 questions above.

The three areas above are essential aspects of any view of any comprehensive hell. (ie the 3 questions above need to be answered). In addition, there are some other areas which raise interesting questions.

A. What is the Cause & Purpose of Punishment in Heaven?
Does God cause the punishment? Or does God just allow the punishment, which is a natural consequence of distance from God or rejection of Him?
What is the purpose of the punishment, if any? Is it intended for reformation? (If so, it seems pointless if there is no chance of escape from hell). Is it just retribution? (If so, eternal punishment for temporal sin raises other questions).

B. Do Heaven Dwellers See And/Or Know of the Plight of Those in Hell?
Many historical church leaders have believed that those in heaven will see or be aware of the suffering of those in hell (eg Martin Luther, Peter Lombard, Tertullian, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Isaac Watts, Jonathon Edwards). Some suggest that those in heaven will be impervious to the suffering of the damned, while others say that the blessed will enjoy heaven even more because they see the suffering in hell (eg Peter Lombard[1], Tertullian[2], Thomas Aquinas[3], Jonathon Edwards[4], Isaac Watts[5]). While this view might have been popular historically, it probably raises more questions today, particularly when it is viewed from the perspective of those suffering in hell being some of our beloved family members.

Others suggest that heaven dwellers will not be aware of the suffering of others. While this view might be more attractive these days, it raises the question of “How?” How will those in heaven be unaware of the suffering of their loved-ones in hell? Will this be through ignorance of their fate? Or though faded memories of these loved-ones? Or will there be just a lack of interest and empathy?

C. Calvinism and Predestination
I attended a church service recently where the preacher said ‘God chose you & you for faith – for salvation’. This ties in with the Calvanistic view of predestination for faith and salvation. I wondered at the response of the ‘unsaved’ in the congregation – they could have responded with “that’s not fair, why wasn’t I chosen by God”, or “I’m not a christian because God hasn’t chosen me, so don’t bother telling me anything more of the gospel”, or “Does that mean I am chosen to go to hell?”
The doctrine of predestination or pre-choosing for faith quickly raises the question of double-predestination – are some people predestined for hell? (Which many people consider unjust)

In reviewing or forming a christian view of hell, it is worth considering the possible options, and also other questions and issues are raised. If hell is the destination for many (or most) if the people who have ever lived, then surely it is important for Christians to be clear in their understanding of it. The traditional permanent-suffering-in-hell version might be correct – but if it isn’t, then it is worth making some effort now to try to understand what the correct version is….

David Allis
March 2009

[1] Peter Lombard, the Master of Sentences – “Therefore the elect shall go forth…to see the torments of the impious, seeing which they will not be grieved, but will be satiated with joy at the sight of the unutterable calamity of the impious .” Sent. Iv 50, ad fin
[2] Tertullian – “At that greatest of all spectacles, that last and eternal judgment how shall I admire, how laugh, how rejoice, how exult, when I behold so many proud monarchs groaning in the lowest abyss of darkness; so many magistrates liquefying in fiercer flames than they ever kindled against the Christians; so many sages philosophers blushing in red-hot fires with their deluded pupils; so many tragedians more tuneful in the expression of their own sufferings; so many dancers tripping more nimbly from anguish then ever before from applause.”
“What a spectacle. . .when the world. . .and its many products, shall be consumed in one great flame! How vast a spectacle then bursts upon the eye! What there excites my admiration? What my derision? Which sight gives me joy? As I see. . .illustrious monarchs. . . groaning in the lowest darkness, Philosophers. . .as fire consumes them! Poets trembling before the judgment-seat of. . .Christ! I shall hear the tragedians, louder-voiced in their own calamity; view play-actors. . .in the dissolving flame; behold wrestlers, not in their gymnasia, but tossing in the fiery billows. . .What inquisitor or priest in his munificence will bestow on you the favor of seeing and exulting in such things as these? Yet even now we in a measure have them by faith in the picturings of imagination.” [De Spectaculis, Chapter XXX]
[3] Thomas Aquinas – “In order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned. . .So that they may be urged the more to praise God. . .The saints in heaven know distinctly all that happens. . .to the damned.” [Summa Theologica, Third Part, Supplement, Question XCIV, "Of the Relations of the Saints Towards the Damned," First Article, "Whether the Blessed in Heaven Will See the Sufferings of the Damned. . ."]

[4] Jonathan Edwards – “The view of the misery of the damned will double the ardour of the love and gratitude of the saints of heaven.” “The sight of hell torments will exalt the happiness of the saints forever. . .Can the believing father in Heaven be happy with his unbelieving children in Hell. . . I tell you, yea! Such will be his sense of justice that it will increase rather than diminish his bliss.” ["The Eternity of Hell Torments" (Sermon), April 1739 & Discourses on Various Important Subjects, 1738]
[5] Isaac Watts: During America ‘s “Great Awakening” the popular hymn writer, Isaac Watts (1674-1748), even set Christians’ feet to tapping with this crisp little verse:
What bliss will fill the ransomed souls,
When they in glory dwell,
To see the sinner as he rolls,
In quenchless flames of hell

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